The film opens with Jor-El (Russell Crowe) looking on as his wife Lara (Ayelet Zurer) gives birth to Kai-El the first natural born child in centuries on Planet Krypton. With the planet's core so unstable Krypton has very little time before it explodes. In the meantime General Zod (Michael Shannon) has been leading the resistance to take over the high council who has used up the energy of the core for their own benefit. Jor-El, knowing that he must save his newborn son, puts him in an escape pod with the key to restart Krypton on another planet, Earth.
So starts the beginning of a story that shows Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) secretly helping people as he grows older on his new father's (Kevin Costner) farm, the introduction of Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and the attack by General Zod. The story comes quite close to Superman II, but this aggressive presentation really ups the tempo, shuts down the romance and brings excellent visuals far beyond the 1980 version.
In back story we first see Clark Kent as a scruffy deckhand working on a fishing vessel and moments later saving lives. Snyder flashes to several scenes where Clark gets bullied, save classmates and his parents, but always guarded that no one finds out his true powers. The film continues adding a shroud of gloom leading Clark to his meeting with the aliens that turn on him for their chance to take over Earth. Director Zack Snyder turns up the heat as the war begins between Superman and the Krypton Army. As the story plays out it gets intense with a complete absence of any comedy other than a few quips from Lois Lanes' editor Perry White (played by Laurence Fishburne).
My overall feel is that Snyder gets overly high powered and therefore takes this character that's noted for saving innocent lives to a darker level that tends to make him a menace. Scenes of buildings being destroyed with thousands of people getting killed in the wake of battles between Zod and Superman last more than twenty minutes non-stop on the screen. While it totally mesmerizes, it brings out something not present in past films with the superhero. The screenplay was written by David S. Goyer, but the story belongs to Christopher Nolan who gave us the Dark Knight series and it shows here in the menacing story with relentless destruction.
I'm a huge fan of the Dark Knight series so this rendering of the Man of Steel surly puts me in the direct sights of the target audience as I think very highly of the film. Extremely well acted with a great cast choice, excellent cinematography, CGI, animation and special effects, detailed direction with pinpoint control of the powerful script make this production a winner. I especially like Henry Cavill in the title role with his strong screen presence and ability to change character intensity. As the tough adversary Michael Shannon tops most who take on the role of a nemesis when he shows his sinister side that burns up the screen.
Two others pull off great screen shots, Russell Crowe as Superman's strong willed father who comes to him as a ghost with important directives. Also Antje Traue as Faora-Ul a kick-butt Krypton warrior who steals the show many times and puts to rest any doubt that women can be as badass as men. Others you'll want to take notice include Christopher Meloni as Colonel Nathan Hardy a top gun for the American Army who gives a huge assist to the Man of Steel and Dylan Sprayberry as the 13-year-old Clark Kent.
Man of Steel has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language. Be cautious when deciding to allow immature children see the film as it does have some scenes that may be inappropriate for younger children. The film flies by at a fast clip until the finale where we watch the destruction of a city by darting powerhouses Zod and Superman in CGI.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Superman without all the mushy romance. (B+)